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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  16 amount of capital extended to research and development (O’Connell 2002) so that more resources and effort may be dedicated toward “branding” the product. As Naomi Klein (1999) puts it, the corporate approach and ethos to commidification that emerged from the 1990s is “branding.” In this way “the product always takes a back seat to the real product, the brand, and the selling of the brand acquired an extra component that can only be described as spiritual. Advertising is about hawking product. Branding, in its truest and most advanced incarnations, is about corporate transcendence” (p. 21). Indeed, pharmaceuticals are the very latest province and exemplification of this commodification strategy. The fact that market speculators and pharmaceutical company executives have appropriated a term from the US entertainment industry to refer to their most coveted prize, the “blockbuster” drug, is just partially coincidental, particularly considering that the US, along with New Zealand, are the only countries in the world that permit the advertising of prescription drugs. A European Union ban on prescription drug advertising prohibits companies from even mentioning brand names on their Internet pages or in their promotional literature. The ban is intended to keep government-subsidized health care costs in check. Yet the American blueprint for drug advertising may soon prove as exportable of a social and cultural commodity as Disney or the action-packed flick. The European Commission now considers a proposal that would permit drug companies to market products for AIDS, diabetes, and respiratory maladies on their commercial web sites open to perusal by Europeans. Even this move, however, carries with it an overarching stricture that consumers be left to seek or request such information and not be targeted by advertising. This stands in stark contrast with the American model of direct-to-consumer advertising. (Fuhrmans and Naik 2002.)

Authors: Tracy, James.
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amount of capital extended to research and development (O’Connell 2002) so
that more resources and effort may be dedicated toward “branding” the product.
As Naomi Klein (1999) puts it, the corporate approach and ethos to
commidification that emerged from the 1990s is “branding.” In this way “the
product always takes a back seat to the real product, the brand, and the selling of
the brand acquired an extra component that can only be described as spiritual.
Advertising is about hawking product. Branding, in its truest and most
advanced incarnations, is about corporate transcendence” (p. 21). Indeed,
pharmaceuticals are the very latest province and exemplification of this
commodification strategy.
The fact that market speculators and pharmaceutical company executives
have appropriated a term from the US entertainment industry to refer to their
most coveted prize, the “blockbuster” drug, is just partially coincidental,
particularly considering that the US, along with New Zealand, are the only
countries in the world that permit the advertising of prescription drugs. A
European Union ban on prescription drug advertising prohibits companies from
even mentioning brand names on their Internet pages or in their promotional
literature. The ban is intended to keep government-subsidized health care costs
in check. Yet the American blueprint for drug advertising may soon prove as
exportable of a social and cultural commodity as Disney or the action-packed
flick. The European Commission now considers a proposal that would permit
drug companies to market products for AIDS, diabetes, and respiratory maladies
on their commercial web sites open to perusal by Europeans. Even this move,
however, carries with it an overarching stricture that consumers be left to seek or
request such information and not be targeted by advertising. This stands in stark
contrast with the American model of direct-to-consumer advertising. (Fuhrmans
and Naik 2002.)


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